These first two were from last week. We were looking at Ezra, and the folks already living in the land were telling the returned exiles that they also sought God and sacrificed to him and wanted to help with the work. Perhaps they were lying, and were mostly motivated to take over, to gain some kind of upper hand. Perhaps they had adopted God along with their own pantheon, instead of worshiping him alone. For whatever reason, the returned exiles said the existing folks had no part in God and no part in the work.
A stylized portrait of friends, and of Amy and me held in God’s invisible hand, and some of the lyrics to one of the songs we sang that morning.
Amy loves Sunday school. She’s learning some Bible verses and stories. She gets to do some fun crafts and games. They’re pretty creative with it all. They encourage the kids to bring their Bible to Sunday school — it’s one of several things they can do that earns them the right to put a marble in the jar. When the jar is full, all the kids get a little prize. Really, not a big deal. I’m just not a big fan of reward systems — when the reward is external, it’s empty — it may jumpstart a good habit, but it doesn’t help sustain a good habit (at least not longer than the reward system is in place) and it can interfere with intrinsic motivation. Think about how grades derail the joy and purpose of learning. Things worth doing have their own reward built in. The intrinsic reward of having a Bible is being able to read it and refer to it, and thereby to gain knowledge and wisdom of God and of people.
Today was Parent – Child Dedication day — several families came forward with their babies to show their intention to raise them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, and the congregation gets to show their commitment to help these families in that task. It’s like baptism — and totally unlike it at the same time. The church gave each family a parenting book. From a previous conversation with the pastor about parenting resources, I’m guessing the book is Shepherding a Child’s Heart, which admittedly has some good points, such as a big emphasis on relationship, but has some big problems, too, such as claiming (against good exegesis) that the Bible mandates spanking, and assuming rebellion where it’s highly unlikely to exist. It actually doesn’t advocate paddling — instead it describes in great detail how spanking with the hand is to be executed. I just drew a paddle because it’s easier and conveys the point more obviously.
I want to add that I really appreciated the emphasis, throughout the sermon, on relationship-building in the home. When authentic and warm relationship is really and truly the aim, I think it can sort of redeem the spanking and such. At least I hope so, and it seems that way in at least some families.
A little one with her parents and the congregation, in the hand of God.